With his numerous racing victories, Louis Chiron, born in Monaco 1899, was one of the main contributors to the Bugatti legend.
After World War I, Chiron operated a car dealership in Nice. His business partner was William Charles Grover, another soon-to-be-famous Bugatti driver, better known by his pseudonym Williams. It was during this time that Chiron first established contact with Ettore Bugatti when he transferred a car for him to the Côte d’Azur. Always short on cash (the car dealership wasn’t exactly a goldmine), Louis Chiron turned to wealthy women to bankroll his glamorous lifestyle and expensive sports cars. He met his benefactresses in the dance halls of Monaco and Nice, where they were literally standing in line for a tango, foxtrot or mazurka with the elegant and extremely handsome taxi dancer. Thus did the unsuspecting husband of his long-time lover Alice “Baby” Hoffmann become one of his key financiers. Women had always been responsible for the most significant developments in Chiron’s life, and in fact his success with the fairer sex can be directly attributed to a woman – a Russian noblewoman who financed his private school education, music lessons, and courses in etiquette, thus providing the necessary training for him to become a true lady’s man.
Chiron won his first races with Bugatti’s Type Brescia, Type 30 and later the Type 35 and Type 35 B – all courtesy of the unwitting Hoffmann. Early highlights of his career were victories in the 1926 Grand Prix of Comminges and the 1927 Grand Prix of France as well as his fourth place that same year in the Grand Prix of Europe at Brooklands, England. In 1928, Chiron joined the Bugatti company team and continued his winning streak in Rome, Reims, San Sebastian, and in the Grand Prix of Europe at Monza. By now he was racing almost every weekend and piling up victories. And he also scored triumphs in larger models – for example the Type 51 in Monaco. By the time Bugatti had finally faded as a racing power in 1932, Chiron was one of the circuit’s top drivers.
In the years to follow, Chiron would drive for a number of other automobile manufacturers, chalking up further victories, yet these paled by comparison to the glorious successes of his Bugatti period. Except for the war years, Chiron continued his career uninterrupted until 1958; even at the venerable age of 56 he finished sixth in the Formula 1 at Monte Carlo. By the time he retired, he was the oldest active Formula 1 driver ever. He subsequently assumed the post of Monte Carlo race director and when he died in 1979, at the age of 80, he was one of the most respected public figures of Europe’s racing royalty.
Louis Chiron at the wheel of a T 51 at the Bugatti Grand Prix
Louis Chiron with a T35 at the Klausen pass
Louis Chiron in a T 35, no. 22, in Sicily